Number of new asylum seekers up 26%

Nick Henderson, Irish Refugee Council chief executive

There was a 26% increase in the number of new asylum seekers in Ireland last year, despite a general decline across the EU in foreign nationals applying for refugee status.

New EU figures show a total of 3,655 individuals were first-time asylum applicants in the Republic of Ireland in 2018 — an annual increase of 745 over the previous year, and the highest level since 2008.

The upward trend here was not mirrored across the EU, where the overall number of first-time applicants fell by 11%.

A total of 580,800 individuals applied for refugee status in the 28 EU member states last year — 73,800 fewer than in 2017.

Last year’s figure is also less than half the number recorded at the peak in 2015 when more than 1.25m first-time asylum applicants were registered across the EU.

“The number of asylum applicants in 2018 is comparable with the level recorded in 2014 before the peaks of 2015 and 2016,” a Eurostat spokesperson said.

Despite the sharp increase in asylum seekers here last year, the numbers arriving in Ireland still represent just 0.6% of all new cases in the EU in 2018. It ranks Ireland in 12th place in absolute numbers of asylum seekers arriving in the EU last year.

The number of new asylum seekers in the Republic represented 756 per million population compared to the EU average of 1,133 which places Ireland in 14th position in per capita terms.

The latest figures show Albania replaced Syria as the main country of origin of new asylum seekers in Ireland last year.

A total of 460 Albanian nationals sought refugee status in the Republic in 2018, representing 13% of all applicants — just ahead of 450 from Georgia (12%) and 330 from Syria (9%). The increase in numbers of asylum seekers has placed pressure on accommodation in direct provision centres.

The latest figures from the Reception and Integration Agency show 5,928 were living in direct provision last October — the highest level since December 2009.

The Irish Refugee Council has expressed concern about the capacity of the system to cope with an increasing number of asylum applicants. “It’s pretty plain and clear that there are not enough spaces to cater for people arriving in Ireland and seeking asylum” said Nick Henderson, IRC chief executive. “The authorities are having to rely on emergency accommodation which is wholly unsuitable.”

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